The Mekons

Journey to the End of the Night

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The Mekons have always thrived on musical contradiction, reveling in their clashes instead of diluting their collective influences, realizing that it's less interesting to play it safe. However, there is little evidence of this inclination on Journey to the End of the Night, perhaps their most straightforward album. Long-time fans looking for the fire of their most impassioned music may be suspicious: for once the Mekons sound like a band getting older, but this isn't a bad thing. On Journey, they avoid the sort of jarring juxtapositions that made previous collections more difficult to digest, but they don't stick to a uniform sound; instead, "Tina"'s light reggae rhythms, chugging guitar line, and melodica coexist peacefully with the low-budget electro of "The Flood." The more reserved songcraft results in one of the group's most sensitive sets of songs. "Ordinary Night" effectively communicates a touching story of love fumbled by a familiar, tragic character in two verses. The duet "Last Weeks of the War" uses truly ominous language in its tale of a broken relationship: "Little black book/Full of little white lies/The straightjacket has arrived/I'll try it on for size," Jon Langford sings, while Timms is both strong and sympathetic ("I'm not ruined but I need repair"). On Journey to the End of the Night, the Mekons have crafted a collection of rich, musically agreeable settings for sympathetic character sketches like these.

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